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Letter: There are two sides to green waste facility story

“New organic waste options are needed for Burnaby, and somebody needs to take responsibility, and a facility needs to be built somewhere.”
Burnaby wants to build a green waste facility at Fraser Foreshore Park, next to Metro Vancouver's Waste-to-Energy Facility (pictured).


I recently read comments from residents in Burnaby regarding the GROW (Green Organic Waste) facility proposed for Fraser Foreshore Park and was disappointed to only see one side of the argument (the opposition) voiced.

As a Burnaby homeowner who lives near the park and often goes trail running along this proposed site, I thought I might offer some reasons why I’m not so quick to dismiss this project.

Even though I was disappointed to only see negative comments regarding the GROW facility proposal I truly appreciated the environmentally contentious sentiments of the readers who shared their concerns and I empathize with them. Burnaby is blessed with an incredible urban parks system and Fraser Foreshore Park is particularly important for those of us who live south of the highway and the lakes.

I’ve cared deeply about the environment since my teen years in the 1990s. I even briefly entered ‘Green Politics’ as a candidate in a federal election and then was elected by British Columbians to represent them on the Federal Council of the Green Party of Canada. In 2016, while completing my Master of Urban Studies at SFU I received the SFU President’s Award for Leadership in Sustainability. All this to qualify that I have come to appreciate how sometimes there are difficult trade-offs we are faced with when considering what aspects of environmentalism or ‘being green’ matter most to us in any given moment. Like the moment you decide to answer an online poll about a proposed green organic waste facility in a park you care about.

While we can’t know the future with perfect certainty, it is extremely likely that Burnaby, and the entire Metro Vancouver region will continue to grow in the coming decades. The existing waste management infrastructure in the region is stretched to capacity and solutions are needed now.

With respect and appreciation to my fellow Burnaby residents who suggest other waste facilities in other communities can handle our future waste we create in our Burnaby neighbourhoods, it might not be quite that easy. Nor is it, in my mind, reasonable or ethical to expect Delta, for example, to continually be where all of our future growing organic waste ends up. Especially as the existing landfill there is reaching capacity and is to be decommissioned in 2037.

These types of arguments against the GROW facility are similar to arguments we often make about social housing or shelters ― “I agree we need more social housing, but just not in my neighbourhood!” ― but at some point local leaders need to step up and say yes, this is needed, and we are going to take responsibility, we are going to build it here.

New organic waste options are needed for Burnaby, and somebody needs to take responsibility, and a facility needs to be built somewhere.

Being green or caring about the environment is definitely about protecting parks and riparian ecosystems, but it is also about carbon capture and storage, diverting from landfills, and creating organic fertilizer from green organic waste for our yards and gardens in a growing city. I support seeing the taxes I pay and a portion of my jogging route and yes, a small portion of marshlands, go towards us taking responsibility for dealing with our own local waste. Perhaps it might even encourage us to consume and waste less as we consider the immediate impacts of our own personal choices. Our waste is our problem, and as such we perhaps shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss proposals to deal with it here locally.

Wes Regan